Need to Know: February 19, 2021


You might have heard: As local news outlets shutter, rural America suffers most (Pew Trusts) 

But did you know: New research in New Jersey finds that well-off and suburban areas receive the most media coverage (Columbia Journalism Review)

In a new study, Sarah Stonbely, research director at the Center for Cooperative Media in New Jersey, explored a new method of mapping local news. Instead of evaluating news coverage based on the location of the newsroom, she mapped coverage areas by the municipalities that a news organization says that it covers. Looking at the state of New Jersey, Stonbely found that affluent cities and towns were likely to have more news outlets covering them, while low-income areas are more likely to be news deserts. Suburban neighborhoods are the best-served areas, while rural areas are most likely to lack any coverage. Communities with a large Hispanic population are most likely to be news deserts.

+ Noted: Sruthi Pinnamaneni and P.J. Vogt leave “Reply All” amid backlash (Vulture); The GroundTruth Project launches new global service programthat will place local reporters in newsrooms in India and Nigeria (Report for the World); Facebook expands program to fight climate lies (Axios)


Best practices for journalists covering crises on Twitter 

A study examining how journalists cover crises on Twitter found that audiences value objective, “instructing” information during a crisis, and are most likely to retweet that information — possibly out of a desire to help. It also offers three priorities for journalists who are using Twitter as a reporting tool during a crisis. This article is part of API’s Research Review series, which highlights academic research that could be relevant and useful to the news industry.


Detour Detroit walks readers through how to stay engaged in local politics — and keep officials accountable (Detour Detroit)

The election may be over, but Detour Detroit wants to help its readers stay involved in local and state politics. In a new guide, Maggie McMillin lays out how to attend public meetings that interest you or where to read reports of those meetings. She also lists local, state and federal representatives, and gives advice on how to lobby, organize and speak out about important issues. The guide includes links to dozens of helpful resources, including other news outlets like Chalkbeat Detroit and Transit Guide Detroit, as well as another guide written by the state of Michigan on how citizens can lobby the government.


Humor over rumor? The world can learn a lot from Taiwan’s approach to fake news (The Guardian)

Taiwan has been exceptionally successful at handling the coronavirus, and digital minister Audrey Tang says part of the reason was the government’s active steps to curb misinformation. The government has deployed a concise, humor-led strategy, where each piece of misinformation is quickly countered with an official response of less than 200 words and two fun images. So last year, when rumors spread that there would be a shortage of toilet paper due to increased manufacturing of masks, Premier Su Tseng-chang released a cartoon and a caption that read, “We only have one pair of buttocks,” reminding citizens that there was no need to stockpile toilet paper.

+ Earlier: Spanish news outlet uses memes to help its fact-checks travel faster across social media (Poynter)

+ Journalists jailed for filming protests in Belarus were accused of orchestrating those protests (Reuters)


How brands can help solve the trust crisis, one expert — or amateur — voice at a time (Revmade)

Health information on the internet has become overwhelmed by scaremongering sites, writes Andrew Hanelly. As part of a marketing team tasked with creating a health-and-wellness resource for a healthcare system, he discovered that misinformation had swamped the market, leading to a crisis of trust around health information. In order to start rebuilding trust, he focused on including voices that were credible and relatable. This included first-person explainers by healthcare providers and photo essays following a provider’s care from sunup to sundown. The team also produced narrative from patients, showing the entire healthcare process, instead of just the before-and-after.


Critical thinking and media literacy aren’t helping in the fight against misinformation (The New York Times)

In the battle to fight misinformation online, digital literacy expert Michael Caulfied says that the way we’ve been taught to evaluate information is making it harder for us to see misinformation for what is. The idea that we should “deeply engage” with bad information by reading more from that source actually leads us down rabbit holes that reinforce false information. Instead, Caulfield says we should encourage lateral reading, where we step back from a source of dubious news and look elsewhere for further information. Media literacy needs to focus on how attention is a scarce resource, and that users should think twice before giving that attention to manipulative sources.


How the ‘news ecosystem’ metaphor obscures the social, political and economic decisions in media (Columbia Journalism Review)

The business of journalism is often referred to as the “news ecosystem,” but media professor Anthony Nadler argues that the metaphor suggests “spontaneous, self-ordering principles” about the news market, rather than a series of decisions. Nadler says that in the early days of the internet, the term was used to refer to the idea that as the old industry died down, new growth would flourish and emerge stronger. The metaphor also promoted a “survival of the fittest” idea about media outlets, without leaving room for conversations about collective efforts or the health of the industry overall. Instead, Nadler suggests the metaphor of a “built environment,” which allows more room for how policies and collective decision-making shape the media.


+ Launching a news nonprofit in Fort Worth, Chris Cobler doesn’t want to “repeat the mistakes of the past” (Nieman Lab)

+ The Capitol riot killed “both sides” journalism, forever changing the way Beltway reporters should do their jobs (The New Republic)

+ “People pay for other media but they won’t pay for journalism”: Because journalism is not like other media and it actually shouldn’t be (Medium, hbcompass)

+ Elitist and racist egg donation ads have no place in student newspapers (The Tech)